I have worked as an office assistant to two senior pastors in a church based in Nairobi for more than 12 years. Over the years, I have witnessed many things and, more so, cases of sexual harassment of staff and female church members but I pretended not to know anything. At present, two staff members have children sired by both pastors and they suspect I know about this. Now, all the women (who are the majority in the office) have turned against me as I am the only one who has never given in to the sexual advances of the pastors. They keep setting me up for failure to make me look incompetent but I am fighting on. It is tough working in an environment where everybody wants me out. I am a single parent and this is my only source of livelihood. Please advise me.
What the readers say:
Marianne, this is a tough situation. One thing I have learnt in life is that a colleague can be the first enemy at your place of work. Never at any given time look intimidated by their incessant baseless accusations. What has brought you together is the job you people are currently doing. I swore to never be susceptible to such. Always come out clean in what you want! They probably imagine you might spill the beans but remind them that it is none of your business. Let them understand that everyone has a lane within which they should operate.
The stories of Joseph and Daniel should inspire you to be true to yourself. Even if you were to be framed into losing your job, it is because there is a better one for you ahead. How will you settle your conscience if you engage in this immoral act? Immoral engagements will neither bring food to your table nor provide for your children. Remain firm and true to yourself.
It is written in the Holy Bible that you had better be anxious and proud of heavenly life than earthly life. To me, it is better to be faithful to yourself, your body and your faith. Why not involve church elders and your parents in the problem you are facing or tell the presiding bishop, senior pastor or other authority what you are undergoing? Otherwise they may take advantage of your silence and continue to harass you. Please be firm in your dos and don'ts and start looking for another job or other career instead of suffering silently. Otherwise, trust in God and new doors will be opened for you.
Maryanne, sorry for what you have to endure but I must mention to you that there are no perfect workplaces. You must realise that there are people who do not live according to what they profess and a good example are the pastors you are working for. This can be annoying especially when we create an expectation of the work environment based on what we know.
Secondly, every work place has its own politics. Just like a market, where traders use all the means to capture a customer and eventually make a sale, colleagues can go to any length for career progression – even being sycophant, among others. It only creates conflict among the staff because of lack of fairness.
Your workmates have resorted to giving sexual favours as a means of getting an edge over you. I must tell you that, at first, they will look like they are making progress while you are mark timing. But their relevance will only last as long as there are no new employees. When a new one comes, they will be dropped and shunned like the plague and the cycle will continue.
Do what is right and you will have the last laugh. It is frustrating and draining to go to that office but, for as long as you can bear it, continue working. Only leave when it becomes too much for you to handle.
Meanwhile, you can start looking for another job or start a business on the side and gradually grow it until it can support you. You could also further your studies or acquire a new skill then leave.
Hilda Boke Mahare has a background in Counselling Psychology
Marianne, this is somewhat common in institutions where sexual favours are a separate option to climbing up the ladder but the problem with such entities is that they do not last. Indeed, you are having trouble with your colleagues only because they know that you chose not to go down the road they chose. From your explanation, there is no mention of harassment or victimisation from the perpetrators but only from your peers. This is because you have chosen to be different from them and are walking the straight and narrow while they are now compromised.
The thing about sexual relations in the office -- for whatever reason -- is that nothing good can come out of them. They only breed contempt and familiarity and soon kill the business when the bedroom issues start finding their way into the boardroom. When this happens, the seniors look for ways and means to get rid of the victims (in most instances, the junior officers are termed as the victims even though in some instances they are the perpetrators).
In that situation, the pastors are in too deep being that they are having multiple relationships with staff. However, to them, you are invaluable and they cannot even dare touch you. Having kept yourself free of those office fiascos, you effectively earned your respect. Your colleagues are well aware of this and, as such, have nothing but hate for you. As a matter of fact, many of them wish they were like you but they are all messed up and are in too deep. They probably feel like they have no way of climbing up and out of their situation.
With all this, how do you survive the marginalisation and torture at your workplace? It is never easy swimming against the tide but it is not impossible. However, you have to stand by your decision not to give in at whatever cost. The moment you do, you will lose all the respect and they may even look for an opportunity to get rid of you fast. With all that has happened and continues to happen, you are the only indispensable staff member and trying to get rid of you is an uphill task.
Remember you have the respect and support of the seniors so your colleagues may try as much as they want but will not get anywhere. Being privy to most of the scandalous secrets in the office also gives you a lot of power in this situation. If it ever gets to the worst, you may want to rub it in the faces of the key perpetrators. This should tame them.
Nonetheless, you have to remain focused and be aware of the fact that many people are not happy with you being there. I urge you to take great caution in everything you do and, as a matter of fact, maintain only essential contact and relations with them.
Simon Anyona is a relationships counsellor
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